Rochester school board argues over when budget plan will be presented

Mar 25, 2020

An effort to push Rochester City School Superintendent Terry Dade’s budget proposal into April failed during Tuesday night’s school board meeting. 

The Rochester Board of education was originally told that Superintendent Terry Dade would present his budget proposal Tuesday, but Dade and Board President Van White had other ideas. 

Dade and White did not want to announce a specific number of layoffs to help bridge the district’s 90-million-dollar budget gap, The budget gap consists of the roughly $30 million overspent last school year and the projected $60 million shortfall for next school year’s projected expenditures.

White argues that now is the time to release the information in part because of the impact of coronavirus on district families. 

“472 people (in Monroe County) are isolation because of this terrible dreaded disease,” said White. “And in that context as an individual I felt it was not appropriate, it was ill timed to have this conversation when people are worried about what they’re going to eat for dinner tomorrow, whether they will have toilet paper, so I offered that concern to our superintendent.”

White and Dade expressed concerns that New York state, which had a $2.7 billion budget shortfall before the pandemic could be in worst financial shape now. White proposed the concept in an email chain with the Board of Education earlier this week. 

Assuming that there were enough votes to push back the date of the presentation, board members were not provided with a copy of the budget ahead of time and the agenda for the meeting was changed. This prompted Commissioner Natalie Sheppard to repeatedly ask Dade, whether the budget proposal was finished and or if he had something to hide.

Dade said he was insulted by the notion and explained further why the vote should be pushed back.

“I fear what happens if we don’t get all $35 million to make this year whole,” said Dade. “I fear that there may be a reduction in funding coming from the state because of this pandemic.”

Board of Education Commissioner Beatriz Lebron balked at the explanation. 

“I wanna see the budget,” said Lebron. “I want our entire community to see the budget. And I want them to see it now. We already delayed a week. And we don’t know what the state is going to give us but we didn’t know a week ago what the state was going to give us and we were prepared to move forward.”

Lebron argued that the board, the district and the community need time to deal with the harsh reality of the budget gap.

Dade told state lawmakers last month that as many as 800 staffers could be let go without a funding increase and $35 million in a spin up loan, which is money that school districts borrow from future foundation aid. 

Lebron, Sheppard, Ricardo Adams and Board Vice President Cynthia Elliott voted to see the budget as soon as possible. White, and Commissioners Amy Maloy and Willa Powell voted to push back the budget to April 7.  

The board members are expected to receive a copy of the proposal Wednesday morning and Dade will present it to the public this Thursday.